Course code PHI404

PHI404 Interdisciplinarity and Expert Disagreement in Sustainability Research

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2019 - 2020 .

Course responsible: Rani Lill Anjum, Elena Rocca
ECTS credits: 5
Faculty: School of Economics and Business
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Limits of class size:
Teaching exam periods:
June block, for the first and final time in 2020.
Course frequency: The course will be given only in June 2020.
First time: Study year 2019-2020
Last time: 2020V
Course contents:

Research and practice for a sustainable future require that we synchronise efforts from multiple fronts. Experts from different fields must think, evaluate and act as a team. For this, we need a common academic culture and to speak a common language. And yet, it is hard to find a topic on sustainability that is free from scientific controversy: food production and consumption, GMOs, solar panels, nudging, fish farming, electric cars, etc.

This interdisciplinary training course aims to train professionals of tomorrow to tackle problems together rather than separated by different disciplines and academic cultures. Examples are: ‘when can we say that a system, decision or solution is sustainable?’, ‘how can we assign value to things?’, ‘how to make a reliable prediction in face of complexity and uncertainty?’, ‘what is risk and how to best evaluate it?’, ‘how can we infer a conclusion from the data?’, ‘how should we weigh conflicting evidence provided by different methods?’ and ‘which types of evidence is significant for a certain purpose?’.

The aim is to identify, understand and critically discuss some of the most challenging barriers for interdisciplinary work. In order to contribute to solving the complex problems for a sustainable future, it is not sufficient that tomorrow’s researchers are well trained in their own areas of expertise. They also need to understand the perspectives of experts in other disciplines, and to spot some implicit, foundational sources of interdisciplinary disagreement.

This is not only a practical challenge, but one that stems from foundational premises in science. Every subject matter is situated within a paradigm where the scientific framework is set: theories, concepts, methods, research agenda, etc. Some academic cultures are very explicit about what is 'allowed' or 'accepted' practice, while in others it will be more difficult to discover the boundaries before stepping over them. Such boundaries are easy to stumble on within any multi-disciplinary institution or collaboration.

Selected topics:

- overcoming challenges in interdisciplinary collaboration

- philosophical bias as a source of academic disagreement

- methodological tensions in and between disciplines

- social responsibility in research

- ethics and dilemmas of sustainability

- social and institutional enablers and disablers of collaboration

- practical tools for interdisciplinary collaboration and writing

Learning outcome:
The students will be able to critically discuss the different possible interpretations of some basic concepts that are foundational for sustainability research, practice and action. The students will also be able to relate such different interpretations (philosophical bias) to norms and practices in their own and other disciplines. When presented with a case-study, students will be able to identify which different philosophical bias led to different methodological choices, evidence evaluation, predictions, interpretation of results. The students will acquire some tools that enable them to work in interdisciplinary teams to identify different intuitions about causation, complexity and risk underlying different argumentations complex, real-life cases of scientific disagreements regarding sustainability.
Learning activities:
Seminars, real case analysis and discussion in groups, oral presentations, flipped classroom, interdisciplinary group work, written assignments, invited guest lectures, a final poster conference.
Teaching support:
Supervision and peer mentoring. The teachers will be available for support and discussion throughout the course and facilitate the group work.
Texts and links will be available on Canvas.
Recommended prerequisites:
Mandatory activity:

The first week is mandatory and students have to attend at least 80 % of the seminars and group work. Mandatory written and oral assignments must be passed in order to pass the course.

Mandatory activities are valid only for this year.

Continuous evaluation. Oral and written assignments, including case analysis and a poster conference. Interdisciplinary teams of students will discuss and analyse real-life cases of expert disagreement in sustainability research. In the end they will also prepare and present a poster in which they apply the tools they learned to their own research area. Passed/ Failed. No re-examination.
Nominal workload:
150 hours, including preparations and assignments. About 36 hours of this is teaching Activity.
Entrance requirements:
Reduction of credits:
The course overlaps with PHI300
Type of course:
36 hours
This course is for students who are interested in critical reflections concerning philosophical motivations for scientific methodology, norms and practices.
Examination details: Continuous exam: Passed / Failed